Aaron Willard of Boston, Massachusetts. An inlaid mahogany and labeled case tall clock. 221150

This is a fine inlaid mahogany case tall clock that exhibits excellent narrow proportions and is fitted with a moon phase painted dial signed by the Roxbury, Massachusetts Clockmaker, Aaron Willard. In addition, this is a labeled cased example.

This is a very attractive clock. This grand case exhibits excellent proportions and traditional mahogany wood selections that are accentuated by a wonderful shellac finish. It stands on four applied ogee bracket feet that are applied to the bottom of a double step molding. The mahogany used in the construction of the base panel is well grained. The grain pattern features long sweeping lines and a number of tone or color changes. It is formatted in a horizontal orientation. The base panel is also framed with a light line inlay pattern. The waist section is long and narrow. It is fitted with a large tomb-stone shaped waist door that is framed with an applied molding. This door panel is also line inlaid. The door provides access to the interior of the case. Here one will fine the two tin can drive weights and the wooden pendulum rod that supports a brass faced bob and rating nut. On the back of the door is the Clockmaker's original set up label. It lists the "Directions for putting up the Clock." This label is thought to have been printed by the American patriot Paul Revere. It is the version that implies that the clock or movement was not installed in the case at Willard’s shop. This suggests that the clock was ordered and sent some distance away from Boston. Clockmaker’s labels are not often found. This is a wonderful addition to the history of this clock and is well worth mentioning. Brass stopped fluted quarter columns flank the sides of the case. These terminate in brass quarter capitals. The bonnet features an open fretwork pattern. This lacy pattern is supported by three fluted finial plinths which are capped at the top. A brass ball and spiked finial is fitted to the top of each plinth. Fully turned and brass stop fluted bonnet columns visually support the upper bonnet molding. These are mounted in brass capitals and are free-standing. The sides of the hood are fitted with tombstone shaped side lights and they are fitted with glass. Additional quarter columns are fitted into the back corners of the hood. The line inlaid bonnet door is arched and also fitted with glass. It opens to access the painted iron dial.

This iron dial measures 12 inches across. The four spandrel areas are decorated with colorful floral themes. These are framed with gilt borders. A lunar calendar is outfitted in the arch of this dial and it tracks the phases of the moon. The lunar moth is approximately 29.5 days. The time ring is formatted with Arabic style five minute markers. A dotted minute ring separates the five minute markers from the large Roman style hour numerals. Inside the minute ring is a subsidiary seconds dial, month calendar day display and the Clockmaker’s signature. This dial is signed by the Clockmaker in script lettering. The signature simply reads, "Aaron Willard ."

The movement is constructed in brass and is good quality. Four turned pillars support the two brass plates. Hardened steel shafts support the polished steel pinions and brass gearing. The winding drums are grooved. The escapement is designed as a recoil format. The movement is weight driven and designed to run eight days on a full wind. It is a two train or a time and strike design having a rack and snail striking system. As a result, it will strike each hour on the hour. This is done on a cast iron bell which is mounted above the movement. The strike hammer is returned to the ready position via a coil spring. This clock retains its original tin cans weights and pendulum.

This fine example is nicely proportioned and stands an impressive 8 feet 3.5 inches or 99.5 inches tall to the top of the center finial. Measured at the feet, this clock is 19.75 inches wide and 10 inches deep. It was made circa 1790.

This clock is inventory number 221150.

About Aaron Willard of Grafton, Roxbury and Boston, Massachusetts.

Aaron Willard was born in Grafton, Massachusetts, on October 13, 1757. Little is currently known of his early life in Grafton. His parents, Benjamin Willard (1716-1775) and Sarah (Brooks) Willard (1717-1775) of Grafton, had eleven children. Aaron was one of four brothers that trained as a clockmaker. In Grafton, he first learned the skills of clock making from his older brothers Benjamin and Simon. It is recorded that Aaron marched with them in response to the Lexington Alarm on April 19, 1775, as a private under Captain Aaron Kimball’s Company of Colonel Artemus Ward’s Regiment. Aaron re-enlisted on April 26 and was soon sent by General George Washington as a spy to Nova Scotia in November. By this time, he had reached the grade of Captain. He soon returned to Grafton to train as a clockmaker. In 1780, Aaron moved from Grafton to Washington Street in Roxbury along with his brother Simon. Here the two Willards establish a reputation for themselves as fine clock manufacturers. They were both responsible for training a large number of apprentices. Many of these became famous clock makers in their own right. The Willards dominated the clock-making industry in the Boston area during the first half of the nineteenth century. Aaron worked in a separate location in Roxbury from his brother and, in 1792, relocated about a quarter-mile away from Simon’s shop across the Boston line. Aaron is listed in the 1798 Boston directory as a clockmaker “on the Neck,” His large shop employed up to 30 people, while 21 other clock makers, cabinetmakers, dial and ornamental painters, and gilders worked within a quarter-mile radius by 1807. We have owned many tall case clocks made by this important Maker. In addition, we have also owned a good number of wall timepieces in the form of banjo clocks and numerous Massachusetts shelf clock forms.


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